Drunk from the Bitter Truth

The Poems of Anna Margolin

By Anna Margolin
Edited and translated by Shirley Kumove
Introduction by Shirley Kumove

Subjects: Poetry, Literature, Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series, Women Writers in Translation
Paperback : 9780791465806, 330 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9780791465790, 330 pages, September 2005

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Table of contents

A Note on the Translation

Once I Was a Youth
Mother Earth, Well-Worn, Sun-Washed
In the Streets
My Ancestors Speak
A City by the Sea
My Home
“We Went through the Days”
With Half-Closed Eyes
Slowly and Brightly
“I Have Wandered So Much”
“Drowse On, My Beloved”
In Copper and in Gold
“All Mute Things Speak Today”
“With Anxious Hands”
Full of Night and Weeping
“Hearing Your Step and Alarmed”
“All This Is Already Long Gone”
“Perhaps This Was My Happiness”
From a Letter
“I Walk in the Shadow”
Kissed My Hand
“No, There’s Nothing to Say”
“Primeval Murderess Night”
“When I Walk with My Beloved”
“A Friend Passes Us”
“Don’t Think That I’ve Changed”
“The Road Is So Still”
“I Did Not Know, My Dear”
“Just Like My Tearful Gaze”
“The Golden Peacock Flew Off”

Demons Whistled Sadly
Out of My Darkness
This Is the Night
Slender Ships
“Often I Walk as If Behind a Veil”
Dear Monsters
Night Came into My House
Hard Heart
Beautiful Words of Marble and Gold
Over Brown Roofs
Brisk (Brest-Litovsk)
At the Café
Girls in Crotona Park
Evening on Fifth Avenue
Broadway Evening
Through Coloured Panes
The Proud Song
The Masquerade Is Over
Reuben Ludwig
Dead Tired from the Burden of a Dream
Just One Poem
To Franz Werfel
We Will Build a Wall

What Do You Want, Mary?
Mary’s Prayer
Mary and the Priest
Lonely Mary
Mary and the Guests
Mary Wants to Be a Beggar Woman
Mary and Death

A Human Being
The Madwoman
The Gangster
In the Dark Room
The Girl Declares
The Song of a Girl
A Woman Says
On a Balcony
My Venus Wears Silk Slippers
Forgotten Gods
Her Smile
Among the Chinese Lanterns
He Brings Sorrow

The Bridge
My Lover’s Poem
Dusk in the Park
My Days Take Root in Stones
Drunk from the Bitter Truth
She of the Cold Marble Breasts
I Want, Angry and Tender One
Index to First Lines in English
Index to First Lines in Yiddish

The poems of Anna Margolin (1887–1952), appearing here both in the original Yiddish and in English translation.


Winner of the 2007 Yiddish Literature and Translation from Yiddish presented by the Helen and Stan Vine Annual Canadian Jewish Book Awards
2007 Runner Up of the National Jewish Book Award in Poetry

Born Rosa Lebensboym in Belarus, Anna Margolin (1887–1952) settled permanently in America in 1913. A brilliant yet largely forgotten poet, her reputation rests on her volume of poetry published in Yiddish in 1929 in New York City. Although written in the 1920s, Margolin's poetry is remarkably fresh and contemporary, dealing with themes of anxiety, loneliness, sexual tensions, and the search for intellectual and spiritual identity, all of which were clearly reflected in her own life choices. Sensitively and beautifully translated here, the poems appear both in the original Yiddish and in English translation.

Shirley Kumove's fascinating critical-biographical introduction highlights Margolin's tempestuous and unconventional life. An exceptionally beautiful and gifted woman, Margolin adopted a bohemian and an eccentric lifestyle, and threw herself into both intellectual pursuits and romantic attachments beyond her two marriages.

Shirley Kumove is a translator and writer whose work has been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts and by the Ontario Arts Council. She is the author of Words Like Arrows and More Words, More Arrows, two collections of Yiddish folk sayings. She was born, educated, and makes her home in Toronto.


"[Margolin's] poems have a powerfully contemporary ring, dealing with spiritual identity, sensuality and depression. " — Na'amat Woman

"In this powerful collection, we are afforded a glimpse into a recklessly original mind, knee-deep in muck but scouting for divinity. " — Boston Review

"Margolin's persona poems, including those about the biblical Mary, show the range of her talent and her ability to bring the world of others to her readers; hopefully this volume will gain her an even wider audience. " — Lilith

"…one of Yiddish's most experimental and storied poets … This astounding bilingual edition presents Margolin complete for the first time in English, and for the first time in Yiddish in over fifty years. Translator, editor, and introducer Shirley Kumove has done Jewish letters an amazing service in her fine renditions, and wonderfully presented biographical and bibliographic material. Highly recommended. " — Jewish Book World

"Shirley Kumove's assiduous research, profound knowledge of Yiddish, and poetic sensibilities combine to make this a valuable and desirable contribution to the library of translated texts. " — Barbara Harshav, cotranslator of American Yiddish Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology

"This bilingual edition makes available an important body of Yiddish poetry by a major author whose concerns remain relevant today. " — Ken Frieden, editor and cotranslator of Classic Yiddish Stories of S. Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I. L. Peretz

"Drunk from the Bitter Truth is a welcome addition to the growing body of Yiddish literature published bilingually. All nuances of Margolin's complex poetry are reflected in Kumove's precise, coherent, and eloquent translation. " — Anna Shternshis, University of Toronto